Karelia is situated in the north-west of Russia and its area is 180,000 sq km. The territory of Karelia extends from the north southward over 660 km and from the west eastward through the town of Kem over 424 km.
Relief. In Karelia’s relief, there are three relief layers. The lower layer is formed by the lowland plains created by lake and sea sediments, 50-100 m high. The middle layer consists of low subdued mountains which rise to 200-230 m above the sea level. Their rocky foot is covered with moraine sediments, and the intermountain depressions are filled with friable deposits. The upper layer is represented by large elevated areas with some hill tops higher than 300 m, the largest of which are located in Western Karelia. In the north-west, near the Finnish border, lies the southern ridge watershed ridge called Maanselkya with the highest point Nuorunen (578 m). To the south lies the West-Karelian elevation situated on the spur of the Maanselkya ridge. The central ridge reaches a height of 305-400 m (Mount Vottovaara, 413 m). There are glacial lake plains, lakes and sometimes swamps in the inter-ridge depressions.
Rivers. There are about 27,000 rivers in Karelia. The largest of them include the Vodla (149 km), the Kem (191 km), the Chirka-Kem (221 km), the Kovda, the Shuya, the Suna, the Vyg, the Syapsya as well as smaller rivers – the Minanyoka, the Lahtayoka, the Bezglazaya, the Gumarin, the Yangozerka and the Luzhma. The famous Kivach waterfall is situated on the Suna River.
Lakes. In Karelia, there are about 60,000 lakes. Together with swamps, they now contain about 2,000 km3 of perfectly pure water. The most famous Lake of Karelia include Nyuk, Pyaozero, Segozero, Syamozero, Topozero, Vygozero and Yushkozero. Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega are the largest in Europe. In Karelia, lake-river systems that include a chain of lakes are very common - the Gumarin, the Upper Kuzemka and the Vonga, the Voloma, the Pistayoka, the Okhta, the Suma and the Suna systems.
Rapids and waterfalls. Rapids is the greatest excitement of river rafting. The largest rapids are the Sobachy rapids on the Vonga, the Kornei rapids on the Pongoma, the Takhko rapids on the Chirka-Kem, the Kiviristi rapids and Tyuterin rapids on the Okhta and Sosnovy, Pulo-Porog and Bolshoi Padun on the Belomorskaya Shuya. There are absolutely splendid rapids in Karelia, such as the Kumi rifts (falling down from a height of 13.6 m) and Dyurrikb (7 m) on the Voynitsa, Padun Keunyas on the Sudno, the cascading waterfall Kivakka (12 m) on the Olanga. Other waterfalls include the Kivach waterfall (10.7 m), the cascading waterfall Bolshaya Yuma (about 5 m high) on the Kepa and the waterfall rapids Bolshoi Padun (about 18 m high) on the Vincha.
Tourism. In Karelia, the following kinds of tourism are most popular:
Catamaran rides on the Suna, Shuya, Okhta, Syamozere, Syapse, Vagatozere;
Kayak rides on the Suna, the Shuya, the Okhta, the Uksa, the Vama, the Vodla, the Tumcha, the Tohmayoka, the Tulema, the Loymola, the Vidlitsa, the Lososinka, the Semcha, the Voloma, Sulla-Lenderka, Tunguda, the Chirka Kem, Belomorskaya Shuya, the Vonga, the Keret and Syamozero;
Fishing in Lake Yanisyarvi and the Vendyurskiye lakes;
Cycling tours of the Karelian Isthmus and around Lake Ladoga.
Sightseeing. In Karelia, there are a lot of natural monuments and historical sights, most of which are very popular:
The Kizhi Island, an island in Lake Onega in Karelia, which is a world-famous architectural ensemble consisting of a number of wooden churches, buildings and houses;
The Solovetsky Islands. The Solovetsky archipelago, or Solovki, is located in the western part of the White Sea between the Karelsky Pomorem and Summer Bank Onega Peninsula, near the Arctic circle, and consists of six sets of large and small islands: Bolshoi Solovetsky, Anzersky, Bolshoi Muksalma and Maly Muksalma, Bolshoi Zayatsky and Maly Zayatsky;
The Kuzova archipelago, on the way from the port of Kem to the Solovetskiye Islands, which includes 16 uninhabited islands, the largest of which are Russky Kuzov and Nemetsky Kuzov;
The Valaamsky archipelago, located in Karelia, in the northern part of Lake Ladoga, 22 km from the mainland. The well-known Valaam Monastery is situated on the island of Valaam;
The Kivach State Reserve, located in the southern part of Karelia, in the Kondopoga district;
The Kivach waterfall, a waterfall on the river Suna in Karelia, about 11 m high;
Martsialnye Vody, a mud spa in the Kondopoga district of the Republic of Karelia (Russia), opened on March 20, 1719, by Peter the Great’s decree;
Marble quarries, near the border town of Sortavala.
National Parks. On the territory of Karelia, there are several national parks: the Paanayarvi National Park, the Tuulos National Park and the Koytayoki National Park. The Ladozhskie Shkhery National Park and the Kalevalsky Park are planned to be opened soon.
Flora and Fauna. In total, there are 63 mammal species in Karelia – the Ladoga ringed seal, the flying squirrel, the long-eared bat, the beaver and the mukrat. The bear, the lynx, the badger and the wolf are also found in Karelia. There are 285 bird species in Karelia – the chaffinch, the hazel grouse, the black grouse, the white grouse and the wood grouse.
In Karelia, coniferous woods are most common, while there are also pine woods in the north and in the south and fir-tree woods in the south. Deciduous trees are found mostly in the southern part of Karelia and they include: the white birch, the European birch, the aspen, the European alder and rarer breeds, such as the linden, the elm, the maple and the black alder. Karelia is a home to many kinds of berries and mushrooms, such as cowberries, bilberries, cloudberries, whortleberries, cranberries as well as raspberries, now common for the Karelian forests, wild strawberries and currents found in the south.
Climate. The climate of Karelia combines continental and maritime features – it has comparatively mild long winters, cool summers, high humidity and a small air temperature range. The temperature ranges from -5°С to -18° С in January and from +10°С to +22°С in July.